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March in Dublin to call for fresh inquiry into death of Terence Wheelock following 2005 arrest

The 20-year-old Dublin man was found unconscious in his cell and died three months later.

Terence Wheelock was found unconscious in his cell at Store Street garda station.
Terence Wheelock was found unconscious in his cell at Store Street garda station.
Image: Family photo

THE FAMILY OF a 20-year-old man who died following his arrest and detention in a Dublin garda station 16 years ago are calling for an independent inquiry into his death.

An inquest into the death of Terence Wheelock, who was arrested on 2 June 2005, returned a verdict of suicide. He had been found unconscious in his cell at Store Street garda station and died three months later on 16 September in hospital. 

The Wheelock family have never accepted the verdict of suicide. 

People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy, who will speak today at a protest by the family and supporters, said the key demand is for an independent public inquiry in to the man’s death. 

“He went into a garda station over 16 years ago and came out in a coma as a result of injuries sustained in the garda station,” he said.

“The family have been trying to push a boulder up a hill for the truth to come out and to have a public inquiry.”

The Garda Ombudsman (Gsoc) conducted an investigation into Terence Wheelock’s death and published findings in 2010, but Murphy said the family wants a fully independent inquiry that would examine new evidence that has emerged. 

The Gsoc investigation found there was insufficient evidence to support the allegation that Wheelock had been assaulted by gardaí during his arrest, and it found there was no credible evidence that he was mistreated in any way during his detention.

The investigation also found that an allegation he had been sexually assaulted during his detention was “wholly without foundation in evidence”.

However Gsoc did identify a number of failings, including “a lack of clear instruction” that led to the presence of a ligature suspension point in his cell and a lack of process which allowed the deceased to bring a ligature with him into the cell. 

It made a number of recommendations, including that An Garda Síochána commence an immediate review of all custody facilities to ensure no ligature points exist within cells and that the force should initiate a study of the feasibility of the installation of CCTV cameras in all custody areas. 

Gsoc’s report on the matter also confirmed that when the Wheelock family was informed in 2005 that Terence was en route to hospital they were initially told he was being transported to St James’ Hospital. He was in fact being taken by ambulance to the Mater Hospital. 

The Gsoc report acknowledged this error, which led to Terence’s mother and sister being taken to the wrong hospital, “caused great concern and upset” for the family who stated that as a result “Mrs Wheelock lost precious time with her son”. 

‘Not being considered’

Murphy raised Wheelock’s case in the Dáil with Justice Minister Heather Humphreys in June this year. The minister said that while she extended her sympathies to the family for their loss, a further inquiry into Terence’s death was “not being considered at this time”

She said her department had recently written to the family to inform them. 

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In relation to Gsoc’s recommendations, Minister Humphreys said all cells across the country have been risk assessed for ligatures.

“I am further advised that 91 cell refurbishment projects have been completed under the national cell refurbishment programme since 2011, including 41 projects from the period 2016 to 2021,” she said.

“Those renovations have been carried out for the safety of prisoners into the future.”

Social Democrats TD Garry Gannon, who was a childhood friend of Terence Wheelock, also raised the issue in the Dáil in July, stating that the community he represents “still has many questions about Terence’s death and it blights their relationship with the gardaí in many ways”.

“I understand that there was a GSOC investigation into this matter 11 years ago but so many questions are left outstanding and so much more evidence has emerged in that time that it warrants an independent investigation finally to bring some finality, some truth and some justice to the Wheelock family.”

The march to the Dáil today will leave from Our Lady of Lourdes Church on Sean McDermott Street at 2.30pm.

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